To Walk Through the Valley of Something or Another

As the Boy was pouring the last of the Mother’s hidden stash of vodka down the bathroom drain, the Father was busy clearing the sidewalk of approximately 22.6 inches of snow that had been piling up since the previous day. The Mother was passed out on the couch. The Boy was nine years old.

He, the Boy, thought that the water-like substance that made the Mother sleep smelled like the fat black markers that his teacher was reluctant to let him use. The Boy liked the smell of the markers, and of the vodka. It was a sharp, penetrating smell; one that made his frontal lobe feel fuzzy in a way he would not understand until years later. His teacher would tell him that smelling the markers was bad for him, that it could hurt him. Buy why was the Mother allowed to drink something that smelled the same?

The Mother and Father fought often and they fought loud, but they wanted to avoid the possibility of damaging the Boy’s developing psyche from their confrontations. So as their debates became more and more heated, they would march down the stairs to the basement, allowing the volumes of their voices to rise incrementally with each step downward. Their hope being that the Boy wouldn’t hear them (as his room was on the second floor of the house and on the opposite side of the house as the basement stairs, not to mention that the house had fairly thick and soundproof walls).

Unfortunately the Mother and Father, blinded by mutual rage never once in their hundreds of fights noticed the fact that their sparring location in the basement was located right below a heating vent. The sounds of the fighting carried through the vent work in much the same way that some string will carry sound between two emptied cans, something the boy had done the previous year for his school’s annual science fair.

And so on a near nightly basis, the Boy woke to the sound of his parent’s disembodied voices screaming from the vent on his floor. He would rise out of bed and lay on his stomach with his ear pressed against the heating vent (this would prove to be a particularly difficult thing to do in the winter, with the heat running and often burning the poor Boy’s ear, which he would hide by wearing a winter cap to cover the burnt ear). At the current moment, outside, the Father’s breathing was becoming heavy as he continued to clear the sidewalk of the heavy, wet snow.

The Boy poured another bottle of vodka down the drain. He watched as it circled the edges of the sink, falling towards the center and into oblivion. The disembodied voice of the Father always said “those fucking bottles of vodka are tearing this family apart.” It was the idea of the Boy that by disposing of the booze he was saving his family, one bottle at a time.

In the next room over, the Mother began to stir, causing the Boy’s heart to skip six or seven beats. He peaked out of the bathroom; she was still out, but had moved into a different position on the couch. The Boy was scared that the Mother would catch him disposing of her drinks before he was finished. At the time he poured each bottle one at a time in a slow, cathartic fashion. There were eight bottles left, and so the Boy began pouring each one down the drain as fast as he could.

Not even the Father knew where the Mother kept her bottles of vodka, and the Boy knew it. The disembodied vent Mother always said “you will never find it.” And occasionally the Boy saw the Father snooping around, checking any nook and cranny for the Mother’s contraband. Outside, the Father had stopped moving the snow and was using the shovel as a means of support.

Knowing that the Father had not found the liquor, the Boy began his own secret crusade to find the stash. And so he followed the Mother around in secret, hoping that she would lead him straight to the source. The Boy started pouring the vodka too fast and began spilling onto the counter and the floor. His hands now also smelled like fat markers, soaked with the Mother’s vodka.

He found the vodka, the Boy. The bottles were hidden behind a hard to notice removable wall panel in a closet in the basement. They were stored to the tops of several brown paper grocery bags. Even a single bag was too heavy for the young Boy to carry. The snow storm gave the Boy the perfect opportunity for disposal. He knew that the Father would be busy outside while the Mother would be asleep. Plenty of time for the Boy to make multiple trips to the hidden stash and then pour them down the drain.

One question arises: why didn’t the Boy simply tell the Father that he had found the Mother’s vodka? There were two main reasons. The first was that the Boy didn’t want the Father to know that he had known about his (the Father) fighting with the Mother. Neither parent wanted the Boy to know and the Boy was afraid of how they would react. The second reason was that he wanted to surprise his parents by being able to tell them that he got rid of the problem tearing the family apart. He thought they would be happy. Outside, the Father was coughing and gasping for air.

Inside, the Boy could hear groans coming from the Mother. He checked couch and could see that she was beginning to stir awake from here drunken stupor. The Boy ran back into the bathroom and continued to pour the contents of the bottle down the drain, only this time he decided to lock the door, to prevent the Mother’s wrath from disrupting his mission.

When the Mother finally rose, he could hear her footsteps as she walked towards the stairs leading into the basement, and to her secret stash. The Boy had just finished pouring the last bottle down the drain when he heard the scream.

The Father heard it as well, but as soon as he started running he could feel a sharp pain in his left arm. It ran from shoulder blade to finger tip.

Before the Boy had the time to even react to the scream, the Mother was pounding at the door yelling “you little fuckin’ piece of shit, just wait until I get a hold of you, I’m gonna twist your neck until your head falls to the god damn floor!.”

The Boy backed away from the door, with the last empty bottle of vodka in his hand. And forgetting that the bathroom floor was soaked with spilled vodka, the poor Boy slipped and fell. His whole body was up in the air, and if you took a picture at the right second, it would have appeared as if the Boy was levitating. The Boy’s arms extended above his head, and as he landed the empty bottle of vodka was in between the floor and the head of the Boy.

Outside, the Father crawled on his hands and knees, struggling to make it to the house. His left arm slipped out from under him and his whole body collapsed to the ground. He never got back up.

The last thing the Boy remembered before slipping into unconsciousness was seeing a pool of his own blood slowly drift towards his feet. The Boy then remembered the sensation of floating, as if some benevolent force was rescuing him from an existence that he was too young to realize was sad.


4 responses to “To Walk Through the Valley of Something or Another

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